My Experience with Contextweb

UPDATE: Contextweb is in process of platform upgrades which should resolve slow ad loading issue. 

Some time ago I experimented with Contextweb on my main website. When I was still considering using Contextweb I was looking hard for reviews but couldn’t find many. In addition, some people in forums told me they had a bad reputation, but I still decided to try.

Contextweb is a CPM program, which means you are paid per 1,000 impressions. I absolutely love the concept of CPM, it is especially useful for someone who has a lot of traffic but struggles to monetize it. This usually happens in unprofitable niches with less or no competition that are still popular between the readers.  This wasn’t exactly my case but I figured it could make a nice addition to my income.

There is a lot of great points about Contextweb. First of all it allows you to choose how much you are going to be paid. For example, if you decide that you want to be paid $3 per every 1,000 impressions (clicks or no clicks) you enter that amount in your ad manager and unless there is someone willing to pay you that amount ads will not be served. You have a choice between using a public service ad (doesn’t pay) or your own ad, such as Adsense or Chitika, as a back up. So for example, if I ask for $3 per 1,000 impressions and I am willing to use an Adsense ad as a back up, I enter requested $3 AND check my Adsense RPM for that spot. Let’s say my Adsense ad makes $2.5 per 1,000 impressions in the same spot. I paste my Adsense code into Contextweb interface and they generate a code for me. Once I paste this code into my page the following will happen:

  • People from countries that are not covered by Contextweb will always see Adsense ad
  • In case someone is willing to pay me my $3 per 1,000 impressions that’s what I will be paid
  • In case noone is willing to pay me $3 per 1,000 impressions the advertisers will bid on that spot. The minimum bid is what Adsense pays me, i.e. $2.5 per 1,000 impressions. So I could be paid anywhere betweeb $2.5 and $3 per every 1,000 impressions
  • In case advertisers are not interested in paying even my required minimum of $2.5 Adsense ad will be displayed.

Technically this means I am not losing anything. However… Not that simple. The concept is good, but unfortunately there are some serious obstacles on the way…

First, I never could get more than 15% fill rate even when I removed my own backup ads and lowered the price until $1.5 . This means that even when you have a lot of impressions you will be still paid just a few dollars per day. No matter how large you are, things are relative anyway. So it will feel to you like a few pennies.

Second, during my time with Contextweb there were about 4 days of serious outage when Contextweb ads wouldn’t load making your website extremely slow. This type of thing could negatively affect your rankings in Google and ultimately cost you way more than what you can actually earn with Contextweb. During these 4 days Contextweb’s website wasn’t loading either by the way.  So during these 4 days not only your website was slow and Contexweb own ads were not displaying, backup ads were not displaying too! This means an absolute loss! I have no idea how often this happens to them, but this was a deal breaker for me. I removed their ads, waited till they were  ok again and then just added their ads in sidebar without any backup. However, I found that even when functioning properly Contextweb is a little slow. I didn’t earn all that much with them so I finally removed their ads altogether.

What else can I say about them?

  • They have a great user interface. It is obvious they carefully thought of how you are going to use it and made it a point to give you best tools and accurate reporting.
  • You can block ads and categories which is really nice. I would never sign up with a company that doesn’t offer that anyway.
  • I had to deal with support. It takes them some time to answer but they do get back to you eventually.
  • Contextweb is only for those who have a lot of traffic from US, UK and Canada.
  • They DO pay. Some people were telling me that they don’t but perhaps these rumors were triggered by their rather lengthy payment cycle. It takes two months to receive your first check (they issue the check  45 days after you reach minimum payout + a week or so for mail, depending where you are).
  •  You will see a lot of insurance and pharmacy companies there. Typically these are companies that have a high CPC in Adsense so they take advantage of cheap and convenient Contextweb. Totally makes sense.

I am not using Contextweb anymore and I am not sure that I would recommend anyone to use it as a publisher. However taking in consideration how thoughtful they were when they were developing their whole system and ad managing interface they could become very successful in the future. Right now it doesn’t seem they have enough advertisers. I doubt I will be putting their ads back any time soon but I am considering to use their program as advertiser.

UPDATE: Contextweb is in process of platform upgrades which should resolve slow ad loading issue.